The Best New Music of 2016: These nine Sask. artists are all pretty good, I guess

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In case you haven’t been paying attention, here are nine more Sask. artist types that seem to be doing some pretty good stuff.

We think so anyway. Maybe, I guess, I dunno…

2016-royalredbrigade

Royal Red Brigade – On Crimson Tides

For the uninitiated, Royal Red is the flagship wine of the bottom tier of the lowest shelf of the liquor store. Below nadir, the hideous bastard spawn as a result of a sweat sock impregnating a swamp, Royal Red’s redemption lies within its economy. A fount of haze and blur delivered at an affordable price, the appeal isn’t lost on the punks who scrimp in order to both purchase vinyl EPs and get properly loaded for the night. But the only comparison to be had between the odium of this swill and the twitchy, muscular punk rock of Regina vets Royal Red Brigade is the pounding sensation between your ears after indulging in both.

On their latest full-length album, the garage-hardcore four-piece deliver a collection of songs that bleed the sweat and spraypaint of every DIY punk basement venue between here and Halifax. Amidst the caustic howl of singer Jason Thiery, the group balance between mid-tempo thumping and blistering full-throttle one-two punk rock. But this time around the group’s songwriting is bolstered with guitar leads that skillfully, and frantically, rip along bass lines that take the driver seat amidst the relentless rumble pummel of super precise drumming – kind of like a wine-drunk sailor mimicking the moves of a hardcore dance floor before falling completely overboard. /CM

respectfulchild

respectfulchild – Glitter

Encapsulated by a mystic menagerie of sounds, melodies, and gleeful bits, respectfulchild composes ornate music that is hyper-detailed, down to every ping and pop, yet somehow never manages to feel cluttered. And on the single “Glitter”, respectfulchild’s violin loops sound like instrumental tendrils that wend and weave in circular patterns, cutting niches into genre-less tags, yet emoting jubilance and joy without uttering a single word. /CM

2016-surfdads

Surf Dads – Summer Vacation

One of the best things about being a moody teen wiener was the complete and utter shirking of any and all responsibilities during summer vacation. Chores? More like bores. But then you somehow became an adult and your summer vacations dried up like so many spilled beach mojitos. But on their latest EP, the Surf Dads take their audience on a roadtrip back to those adolescent feelings of slackerdom and loaf-for-life. Pounding fun punk that goes down smoother than Goldschläger, live the band is a whirlwind of limbs and riffs. The recorded output tends to be a tad more restrained, allowing for the sunshine pop nuances on Summer Vacation to shine through. But while the song “Yesterday’s Clothes” starts off a little more mopey and morose – TFW when you discover your kissin’ crush was actually more of a fling – but those guitar solos still scream sun burns and short shorts. Also, make sure to listen for the cameo vocal line from Regina’s Dagan Harding – whom you may remember from such bands as Despistado and Dagan Harding – on opening track “Found Yourself In Thailand.” /CM

2016-knee socks

Knee Socks – We Were NOT Told There Would Be Bees

Opening with fuzzed-out fun and a kick pedal that hammers you in the chest like a VW van, Knee Socks have given us a five song EP that revels in garage rock roots while giving a shaggy salute to ‘70s riffs. Lava lamp-isms aside, however, Knee Socks are sorta stoner-y without the druggy side effects that leave you sluggish and dopey. Instead of slogging like a beanbag filled with butts, the music stays lively with melodies that dance despite the down-tuned tones. On the song “From Scratch” the band strays from the sludge, opting for indie-friendly breakdowns and skipping drum beats. But the vocal breaks and percussion blips on “Party’s Over” ensures the antics are still front and centre. /CM

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The Grey Light District – The Six Small Deaths of The Grey Light District

Six nightmarish songs that ooze spit, snot and other various bodily fluids, noise-rockers Grey Light District finally deliver their long-awaited debut cassette. And, yes, it was worth the wait. Driving distorted bass lines tackle the role of lead instrument, supported by animalistic drumming and washes of agitated guitars. Five original thrashings are provided, along with a disturbing cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I love music like this, but rarely does it scare the ever-living fuck out of me. Thanks for the aural terror dreams and wet sheets, I guess. /AS

2016-snake river

Snake River – Sun Will Rise

A soft light glows in Snake River Mountain, a fictional town that houses a seemingly colorful cast of characters and the heart of Regina band Snake River’s canon. Chris Sleightholm, singer and multi-instrumentalist, has spent the better part of five years carefully weaving a storied narrative about the town and its inhabitants. Described as “Normal people – normal people who do strange things. They have dreams and see visions, and argue with their loved ones.” Normal people doing strange things isn’t inherently strange. Or necessarily normal. But it is a fitting way to describe the essence of Snake River’s sound, which lives in a world between Fleet Foxes and the Tragically Hip, both sonically and as bands known for telling stories. And on Sun Will Rise the four-piece meanders in the spaces between, hinting at old-school AM radio rock, and rough-around-the-edges psychedelic prairie jams.

A band keen on being noisy and noticed, Snake River are very promising, and could potentially be remarkable, benefiting from a little more restraint and self-editing. “Something/Nothing” is the immediate standout, not just due to its nearly eight-minute length, but because of its dialed mood and confidence. The first half of the track showcases the strongest moments on the record, and although it runs longer than necessary, it leads nicely into “Who’ll Tell Our Story”, an echo-y 90s jam that comes just short of falling apart beneath an incoherent spoken word ramble. The rhythm section casually lumbers its way through most of the record, at peace with not living in the spotlight. Both drums and bass do well within the subtle changing grooves that come with each track, even occasionally serving as the most interesting part of the song. The same could also be said for the guitars and vocals; which breathe quite effectively together for the most part, only occasionally tripping over each other.

The attention given to such an elaborate backstory, for a band with occasionally indecipherable lyrics, feels at times almost like an afterthought but is by no means a waste. The songs pack an emotional punch that deepens with a greater understanding of the storytelling, but is not dependent on it. The final product isn’t flawless, but is very much at home where it belongs. Strong and loose in equal measure. Uneasy and unchanging. Sun Will Rise is painted in broad and narrow brush strokes. Broad in scope, narrow in aim. /JK

2016-alsoalsoalso

Also Also Also – Stock Neon

Sultry electro-pop songs about love, sex, and relationship dissolution, Also Also Also features a plethora of ghostly melodies that float phantasm-like all over the place alongside chill synths and midi loops – all with a very certain don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. Creepily dissonant at times, and confident throughout, Stock Neon is an excellent debut. /AS

speedhammers

The Speedhammers – … Tell You What

Featuring members of Mechanical Separation, The Classy Chassys, and Filthy Gutter Life, The Speedhammers are a hard-drinkin’, good-time-havin’ local supergroup. Or something like that. Just as if punk-cover professionals Me First & The Gimme Gimmes had been born in the cold prairies, smoking cigarettes right out of the womb, The Speedhammers pays tribute to the members’ favourite songs and spans the gamut of popular music, covering everyone from Dean Martin to Screeching Weasel. Often funny, but just plain fun, this seems like a band I’d like to see live. /AS

2016-toprope

Off The Top Rope – I Survived a Death Match With​.​.​.

As a precocious brat, wrestling was king, and knowing your holds pretty much guaranteed you a spot at the front of the lunch room line-up. So it’s only a tiny bit of nostalgia that ushers in those immediate feels for the grapple-gripped dudes of Off The Top Rope – punk rock that most of us would equate with beer guzzlin’, fake sick days from work and running in circles on a sticky, sticky floor. Shouty vocals that harken back to the interview subjects corralled by “Mean Gene” Okerlund, this sharpshooting trio possesses an unabashed love of bashy pop-punk playfulness that’s only eclipsed by their thrashing, snot-addled clench-core. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that they like wrestling a whole lot. Who knows for sure… /CM